Punch Brothers has been an astoundingly resilient group since their founding in 2006. Original bassist Greg Garrison left two years later, replaced by then 22 year old wunderkind, Paul Kowert, but the other founding members – Chris Thile on mandolin, Chris Eldridge on guitar, Noam Pikelny on banjo, and Gabe Witcher on fiddle – have stayed intact since.
This has been possible largely by the somewhat seasonal nature of the band, clearly under Thile’s direction from the start, allowing the various Punchers to pursue other artistic passions in between new albums and tours with the group. From these “pauses” in Punch Brothers activity, we have seen solo efforts from Thile and the others, the brilliant Stuart Duncan & Noam Pikelny project, multiple albums produced by Chris Eldridge, and Kowert’s participation in the experimental string band, Hawktail.
From their first recording together, Thile’s How To Grow A Woman From The Ground, these exceptional musicians have crafted a new direction for the bluegrass ensemble as envisioned by Bill Monroe. Sometimes performing music in the bluegrass format, they also used these same instruments to challenge themselves and their listeners to hear pop, rock, and even classical music played on banjo, fiddle, mandolin, guitar, and bass.
But with Gabe Witcher’s announcement last week that he would be leaving Punch Brothers, and their simultaneous statement that Brittany Haas would be coming aboard, the first crack in the alliance this past 15 years has been exposed.
In taking his leave, Gabe expressed both his love for his Brothers, and his pride in their work, as well as a confidence for their future without him.
By now you’ve probably heard the news that I’ll soon be passing the ol’ fiddle baton and starting the next phase of my musical journey. These last 18 years have been the most joyous and fulfilling of my career. I couldn’t be prouder of the music we created and the community we have built.
While it’s hard to say goodbye, the time has come for me to focus on my family and projects closer to home. I am forever grateful to my fellow band mates and the larger Punch family for their love and support, and I am filled with immense gratitude for all of the well-wishes and encouragement from our fans.
There is no better person to pass the baton to than Brittney Haas, and I am SO excited to hear what this new collaboration will bring.
Much love to you all and see you again soon.”
Fans and followers of Witchers work can keep up with his various composition projects for film, television, and gaming at his official web site.
Haas has been among the most highly regarded fiddlers in old time and experimental string music of the 21st century, starting with her touring with Darol Anger when she was 14 years of age. Just a few years later she released her first solo album, before heading off to Princeton University, during which time she recorded and toured with Crooked Still.
A member of Hawktail since their inception in 2003 as the Haas Kowert Tice Trio, with Brittany on fiddle, Paul Kowert on bass, and Jordan Tice on guitar. That soon became Haas, Kowert, Tice, and Leslie when Dom Leslie joined on mandolin, a band name so unwieldy it quickly yielded to Hawtail.
Of joining as the first Punch Sister, Brittany tells us…
“I’m tremendously fired up to be joining a band that I LOVE, and to be following after such a remarkable fiddler/musician, Gabe Witcher. Thanks to the Punch Brothers for bringing me into the family; I can’t wait to make new music with them.”
Haas is currently touring with her sister, cellist Natalie Haas, in support of their duo album, Haas, which drops next month. She will join up with Punch Brothers later this summer.
On to the next adventure!